Florence Mills
Born January 25, 1896, Washington D.C. USA
Died November 1, 1927, New York City, NY, USA
Florence Mills, born Florence Winfrey (January 25, 1896 – November 1, 1927), known as the "Queen of Happiness", was an African-American cabaret singer, dancer, and comedian known for her effervescent stage presence, delicate voice, and winsome, wide-eyed beauty.

Life and career

A daughter of formerly enslaved parents, Nellie (Simon) and John Winfrey, she was born Florence Winfrey in Washington, D.C.. She began performing as a child, when at the age of six she sang duets with her two older sisters. They eventually formed a vaudeville act, calling themselves "The Mills Sisters". The act did well, appearing in theaters up and down the Atlantic seaboard. Florence's sisters eventually quit performing, but Florence stayed with it, determined to pursue a career in show business. In time, she joined Ada Smith, Cora Green, and Carolyn Williams in a group called the "Panama Four," with which she had some success.

Mills became well-known as a result of her role in the successful Broadway musical Shuffle Along (1921) at Daly's 63rd Street Theatre (barely on Broadway), one of the events credited with beginning the Harlem Renaissance, as well acclaimed reviews in London, Paris, Ostend, Liverpool, and other European venues. Mills told the press that despite her years in vaudeville, she believed that Shuffle Along launched her career. In 1924 she headlined at the Palace Theatre, the most prestigious booking in all of vaudeville, and became an international superstar with the hit show Lew Leslie's Blackbirds (1926).

Among her fans when she toured Europe was the Prince of Wales, who told the press that he had seen Blackbirds eleven times. Many in the black press admired her popularity and saw her as a role model: not only was she a great entertainer but she was also able to serve as "an ambassador of good will from the blacks to the whites... a living example of the potentialities of the Negro of ability when given a chance to make good".
Featured in Vogue and Vanity Fair and photographed by Bassano's studios and Edward Steichen, her signature song and her biggest hit was her rendition of "I'm a Little Blackbird Looking for a Bluebird"; another of her hit songs was "I'm Cravin' for that Kind of Love".

From 1921 until her death in 1927, she was married to Ulysses "Slow Kid" Thompson (1888–1990), whom she met in 1917 as the dancing conductor of a black jazz band known as the Tennessee Ten.
Death and legacy

Exhausted from more than 250 performances of the hit show Blackbirds in London in 1926, she became ill with tuberculosis. Her condition further weakened her, and she died of infection following an operation at the Hospital for Joint Diseases in New York City, New York on November 1, 1927.
She was 32 years old. 
Most sources, including black newspapers such as the Chicago Defender and Pittsburgh Courier as well as mainstream publications including The New York Times and Boston Globe, reported that she had died of complications from appendicitis.

Her death shocked the music world. The New York Times reported that more than 10,000 people visited the funeral home to pay their respects; thousands attended her funeral, including James Weldon Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and numerous stars of stage, vaudeville and dance. Honorary pall bearers including vocalists Ethel Waters and Lottie Gee, both of whom had performed with Mills in the past. Dignitaries and political figures of both races sent their condolences. She is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.

Mills is credited with having been a staunch and outspoken supporter of equal rights for African Americans, with her signature song "I'm a Little Blackbird" being a plea for racial equality, and during her life Mills shattered many racial barriers.
After her death, Duke Ellington memorialized Mills in his song "Black Beauty". Fats Waller also memorialized Mills in a song. "Bye Bye Florence" was recorded in Camden, New Jersey, on 14 November 1927, featuring Bert Howell on vocals with organ by Waller, and "Florence" was recorded with Juanita Stinette Chappell on vocals and Waller on organ. Other songs recorded the same day include "You Live on in Memory" and "Gone But Not Forgotten — Florence Mills", neither of which were composed by Waller.

A residential building at 267 Edgecombe Avenue in Harlem's Sugar Hill neighborhood is named after her.

Harlem 1900-1940

Reg Arnold, (Jazz) Trumpet/cornet
b. England, d. Jan. 15, 1963
Reg Arnold


Wellman Braud, Bass 
b. St. James Parrish, LA, USA

d. Oct. 29, 1966, Los Angeles, CA, USA

~by Scott Yanow 

One of the top string bassists of the 1920s, Wellman Braud was the first of the great Duke Ellington bass players, a tradition that would later include Jimmy Blanton, Oscar Pettiford, and even Charles Mingus. Braud grew up playing music in New Orleans, occasionally switching to guitar or drums. By the time he moved to Chicago in 1917, Braud was strictly a bassist. He was with Charlie Elgar (1920-1922) and toured Europe with Will Vodery's Plantation Revue before freelancing to New York. Braud became a key member of Duke Ellington's Orchestra (1927-1935), and his well-recorded bass (his only close competitor on his instrument during the period was Pops Foster) really drove the band during their many records.

After leaving Ellington, Braud played with the Spirits of Rhythm (1935-1937) before forming his own trio. He recorded with Jelly Roll Morton (1939-1940) and Sidney Bechet (1940-1941), but opened a poolroom in New York in 1940, and thereafter became a part-time player. Among his later musical experiences were reunions with Duke Ellington (1944 and 1961), and stints with Bunk Johnson (1947) and Kid Ory's Creole Jazz Band (1956).
"Sleepy John" Estes, Blues Vocals
b. (near) Ripley, TN, USA
d. June 5, 1977, Brownsville, TN, USA (stroke)

~by Barry Lee Pearson 
Big Bill Broonzy called John Estes' style of singing "crying" the blues because of its overt emotional quality. Actually his vocal style harks back to his tenure as a work-gang leader for a railroad maintenance crew, where his vocal improvisations and keen, cutting voice set the pace for work activities. Nicknamed "Sleepy" John Estes, supposedly because of his ability to sleep standing up, he teamed with mandolinist Yank Rachell and harmonica player Hammie Nixon to play the houseparty circuit in and around Brownsville in the early '20s. Forty years later, the same team reunited to record for Delmark and play the festival circuit. Never an outstanding guitarist, Estes relied on his expressive voice to carry his music, and the recordings he made from 1929 on have enormous appeal and remain remarkably accessible today.

Despite the fact that he worked to mixed Black and White audiences in string band, jug band, or medicine show format, his music retains a distinct ethnicity and has a particularly plaintive sound. Astonishingly, he recorded during six decades for Victor, Decca, Bluebird, Ora Nelle, Sun, Delmark, and others. 
Over the course of his career, his music remained simple yet powerful, and despite his sojourns to Memphis or Chicago he retained a traditional down-home sound. Some of his songs are deeply personal statements about his community and life, such as "Lawyer Clark" or "Floating Bridge." Other compositions have universal appeal ("Drop Down Mama" or "Someday Baby") and went on to become mainstays in the repertoires of countless musicians. One of the true masters of his idiom, he lived in poverty, yet was somehow capable of turning his experiences and the conditions of his life into compelling art.

"I've Got A Feeling I'm Falling", by Billy Rose,
*Harry Link* and Thomas "Fats" Waller.
*Harry Link, Composer
b. Philadelphia, PA, USA
d. July 5, 1956, New York, NY, USA
~by Steve Huey

Composer Harry Link is best-known for co-writing the standards "These Foolish Things" and "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling." 

Born Harry Linkey in Philadelphia on January 25, 1896, he attended the University of Pennsylvania and studied business in its Wharton School. One of his earliest professional songs was co-written with Irving Berlin -- 1914's "Along Came Ruth." In 1916, he acted in the film The Masked Rider, but didn't make it a full-time career; instead, he worked on his songwriting while managing the business end of several different music publishing companies over the years. His first big-time success came with 1929's "I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling," which he co-wrote with Billy Rose and the legendary pianist Fats Waller; the song was a hit for Waller and was later recorded by Louis Armstrong, among many others. Link wrote several other songs with Waller, among them "Gone" (with Andy Razaf) and "I Hate to Leave You Now" (with Link's eventual wife, Dorothy Dick; this tune was also recorded by Armstrong).
Link and Dick also collaborated frequently, often with outside writers, which produced songs like "By My Side" (1931), "Until We Meet Again Sweetheart," and "Peelin' the Peach" (which was recorded by Paul Whiteman). In 1932, Link contributed material to the film Blondie of the Follies, and four years later he landed the biggest hit of his career with "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)," which was co-written by Jack Strachey and Eric Maschwitz. That year alone brought five Top Ten versions of the song, including renditions by Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson & Billie Holiday; it was recorded by countless others, and was even a hit in France for Jean Sablon (under the title "Ces Petites Choses"). After 1937, Link spent much of the remainder of his career working in a business, rather than creative, capacity. He died in New York City on July 5, 1956.
Songs by Harry Link : Jazz Standards Timeline
Charles "Truck" Parham
Double Bass/drums
b. Chicago, IL, USA
d. June 5, 2002, Chicago, IL, USA (age: 90)
~by Greg Prato

Charles "Truck" Parham played bass with some of the most renowned jazz and Dixieland musicians of the 20th century, including pianist Art Tatum and cornet player Muggsy Spanier, among others. Born and raised in Chicago, Parham sold newspapers from the town's famed Dreamland Café, where he first became familiar with jazz music (via cornet player King Oliver). Parham also grew friendly with some of the musicians that played at the venue, including Freddie Keppard and Louie Armstrong, both for whom the youngster did chores for. It wasn't long before Parham picked up an instrument himself, but it wasn't the bass first, it was the tuba. He switched to the bass soonafter however, after a bandleader asked him to fill in for bassist who failed to show up for a performance. Parham began picking up pointers from such bass legends as Walter Page from the Count Basie Band, as Page tutored Parham in exchange for his service as a bodyguard (Parham was an amateur boxer and a football player). It was also around this time that Parham was given his nickname, "Truck," due to the fact that he would often drive the band bus.
Parham played with local bands regularly and eventually throughout the Midwest by the 1930s, before returning back to Chicago permanently, where he played alongside drummer Zutty Singleton (additionally, Parham played with trumpeter Roy Eldridge around this time, at the popular Three Deuces Club). Shortly thereafter, Parham became known as one of the area's most skilled bassists, as he continued to perfect his playing in pianist Earl "Fatha" Hines' big band as well as Jimmie Lunceford's Orchestra, the latter of which Parham played with for five years during the early to mid-'40s.
During the '50s, Parham played as part of cornetist Muggsy Spanier's Dixieland Band, in addition to brief gigs with singer Pearl Bailey and drummer Louis Bellson, while the '60s saw the bassist play primarily with Dixieland/traditional jazz pianist Art Hodes. Parham continued to play throughout the latter part of his life, including festival shows alongside longtime friend/saxophonist Franz Jackson's band. Parham passed away at the age of 91 on June 5, 2002, in his lifelong hometown of Chicago, due to respiratory ailments.
Notable Events Occurring
On This Date Include:

Ernst Fredrick Werner Alexanderson is born in Uppsala, Sweden. After moving to the USA, he will make numerous discoveries which will form the basis for the technology that will make the transmission of voice, music and pictures possible.

Marian Distler
label co-owner (Folkways)
died in New York, NY, USA.
Age: 45.

John 'Cap'n' Handy, tenor sax
died in Pass Christian, MS, USA.

Harry Dial, label owner (Dial)/drums
died in New York, NY, USA.
Songs Recorded/Released
On This Date Include:


Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra - Cutie (introducing "I've Found a Bud Among the Roses")
Lonesome Hours


Dixie Washboard Band - Livin' High

Dixie Washboard Band Wait Till You See My Baby Do The Charleston

Roger Wolfe Kahn and his Orchestra


Jelly James and his Fewsicians - Georgia Bo Bo

Clarence Williams' Jazz Kings - Candy Lips

Roger Wolfe Kahn and his Orchestra


Winegar's Pennsylvania Boys
  • A Good Man is Hard to Find

The Clicquot Club Eskimos - Henry's Made A Lady Out Of Lizzie - (Tom Stacks vocal in trio)


Paul Whiteman's Original Rhythm Boys - So The Bluebirds And The Blackbirds Got Together

Ambrose And his Orchestra - Me And The Man In The Moon

Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra


Louis Armstrong and his Orchestra - Hustlin' And Bustlin' For Baby

Annette Hanshaw - Moon Song


Teddy Wilson Orch. (Billie Holiday voc.) - "Why Was I Born"


Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea
~Harold Arlen

I don't want you
But I hate to lose you
You've got me in between
The devil and the deep blue sea

I forgive you
'Cause I can't forget you
You've got me in between
The devil and the deep blue sea

I ought to cross you off my list
But when you come a-knocking at my door
Fate seems to give my heart a twist
And I come running back for more

I should hate you
But I guess I love you
You've got me in between
The devil and the deep blue sea

brought to you by... 


Special Thanks To:
The Red Hot Jazz Archives,
The Big Band Database, Scott Yanow,
and all those who have provided content,
images and sound files for this site.

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